Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jean Nienkamp, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.


The goal of this study is to understand ten Taiwanese graduate students’ personal experiences with language anxiety and cultural adjustment while studying in an American university. This study focuses not only on language anxiety but also on cultural factors in participants’ daily lives inside and outside of the classroom. The study utilized an adapted version of the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (Horwitz, Horwitz, & Cope, 1986), three personal in-depth interviews, and one focus group interview; the results showed that listening comprehension (including speech rate), participation in group discussion, and grammatical errors in writing, are the three primary factors associated with the participants’ language anxiety and adjustment in classroom situations. The three primary factors associated with their language anxiety and adjustment outside of the classroom are the perceived attitudes of Americans, listening-and-speaking related skills, and loneliness/isolation. These participants have experienced high levels of language anxiety and difficulties adjusting to class formats, particularly to group discussions. Also, their problems with listening comprehension and American students’ speech rate are found to be associated with their language anxiety in class. Their anxiety and problems of adjustment outside of the classroom are most associated with telephone calls and doing everyday chores, and are related to perceived attitudes of Americans, as well as participant concerns about their speaking and listening skills. Seven of these participants feel dejected and left out of the academic and local communities; however, their motivation to learn the target language seems to remain strong, as the primary goal of their study in the U.S. is to learn the target language. Participants were found to use a variety of coping strategies for dealing with issues of language anxiety and cultural adjustment. In classroom situations these include reviewing or asking classmates for help, and seeking feedback on writing from the writing center, their professors, or a paid American editor. Their coping strategies in their daily lives outside of the classroom include watching local TV and making special efforts to speak and overcome the fear of losing face. Implications to help international students’ social lives, and recommendations for future research, are provided.